By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune
“After Fuentes scandal, Texas billionaires fund new PAC to support conservative candidates” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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Texas’ most prolific far-right donors have reloaded in the wake of scandal — and with a bruising primary on the horizon.
A campaign finance report posted Wednesday showed that West Texas oil billionaires Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks have poured $2 million into a new group, Texans United for a Conservative Majority, that has started spending against Texas House Republicans. The group is a spinoff of Defend Texas Liberty, the political action committee that came under fire in October, after The Texas Tribune reported that its then-president, Jonathan Stickland, hosted notorious white supremacist and Adolf Hitler admirer Nick Fuentes for nearly 7 hours.
Defend Texas Liberty — which has vowed to go after House Republicans who voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton — curtailed its political giving after the scandal, disclosing only one candidate contribution through Dec. 31. But Texans United for a Conservative Majority popped up in December and had to meet a reporting deadline of Tuesday because it is involved in a special election next week. It filed the report a day late.
Its report — as well as another report it filed late — showed its only donors through Saturday were a firm tied to Dunn called Hexagon Partners and Wilks. The firm gave $700,000, while Wilks gave $1.3 million.
The PAC reported over $400,000 in candidate contributions, mostly to primary challengers from Jan. 1 to Jan. 20. The biggest recipients, at $100,000 each, were David Covey, who is running against House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, and Andy Hopper, who is taking on Rep. Lynn Stucky, R-Denton.
Phelan is a top target of the PAC after overseeing Paxton’s impeachment, and Stucky is in a rematch against Hopper after defeating him by a razor-thin margin last primary.
The report marks the first time that almost all the candidate donations stemming from the beginning of January were disclosed.
Texans United for a Conservative Majority was required to file the report because it is working in the Jan. 30 special election runoff to replace former Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City, who was expelled for providing alcohol with an intern and having sex with her. The PAC is supporting Brent Money over Jill Dutton in that intraparty battle.
The Fuentes scandal drew fierce denunciations from Phelan and his allies. The firestorm only grew in the following weeks, as the Tribune uncovered other links between Defend Texas Liberty and avowed antisemites or racists.
And some questioned whether Dunn and Wilks would recede from the political scene amid the unwelcome attention to their political activities.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he spoke with Dunn at the time and Dunn told him “unequivocally that it was a serious blunder for PAC President Jonathan Stickland to meet with white supremacist Nick Fuentes.”
Patrick had gotten $3 million in campaign funding from Defend Texas Liberty as he was preparing to preside over Paxton’s impeachment trial last year. Amid the fallout from Fuentes scandal, Patrick announced he was putting $6 million of his campaign funds into Israeli bonds.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/01/24/tim-dunn-farris-wilks-defend-texas-liberty-nick-fuentes/.
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